Child sexual abuse is when a child is forced or persuaded into sexual activity.
Child sexual abuse can happen to children of all ages, from babies to teenagers. Sexual abuse of children can happen in person, online, or both.
Children and young people who are being sexually abused sometimes express distress through behaviours such as anger, running away and feel bad about themselves. You might notice a child acting in a sexually inappropriate way or using sexual language that you would not expect for their age. A child may appear afraid of being alone with a particular person or might become secretive and withdrawn or emotionally distressed.
A child who is being sexually abused may also change their usual behaviour suddenly, they may appear sad and unhappy when before they had a happy school life and strong friendships. Older children may develop mental health problems, eating disorders and use drugs and alcohol as a way to manage their distress.
Children often feel responsible and can be persuaded by an abuser that what’s happening is all their own fault. However, child sexual abuse is only ever the fault of the abuser, it’s never the fault of the child.
If you are concerned that a child may be being sexually abused, it’s always better to say something than do nothing – see our Get Help section for sources of help and advice.